[776]: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

“I was both relieved and irritated when Reva showed up, the way you’d feel if someone interrupted you in the middle of suicide.”


I pretty much waited throughout the entirety of the novel for our nameless character to kill herself, to be honest. Not because I wanted her to meet her own doom on her terms, but it’s because she left me feeling like she was always on the precipice of offing herself. On the surface, she didn’t have anything to feel bad about her life: she’s wealthy, beautiful, and a job at an art gallery fresh off university. But she somehow found herself perpetually in the winter of her discontent. (Though, I’m sure saying that a person has no reason to be depressed about is toxic. Not to mention, that statement is counterproductive, completely insensitive and obtuse.)

This book, however, is exactly about that: our character’s self-induced, heavily medicated coma sleep but on her own terms. She wakes up intermittently only for personal hygiene and sustenance. Otherwise, she’s shut herself from the world. By her reasoning, the world has virtually forgotten her anyway. Her parents didn’t have time for her; her only semi-stable relationship has run its course; and her friend, though a constant presence in her life was a bit of a self-involved user. Her therapist can only be relied on for prescription drugs. So at the end of it all, the unsuspecting reader would feel as if they went through the wringer themselves. And I wouldn’t blame them one bit.

I have not read her first book. But based on the reviews, it seems like Ms. Mosfegh has a penchant for subjecting her characters to some pretty unconventional ways to deal with their mental and emotional anguish. The most shocking thing about them is that she makes it work — she’s very convincing. In here, our nameless protagonist has a pretty severe case of self-hate. That regardless of her seemingly blessed fortune, she still found ways to debase her own self. Unfortunately, she doesn’t find happiness at the end of the book. Or even a glimmer of hope that she’ll be happy with herself. The heartbreaking thing of it all is that this book climaxes during 9/11 and thereafter. So while people around the world found it in themselves to be happy about their lot in life, our character seemed unattached. And considering she lost her best friend in World Trade Centre, I didn’t find anything that closely resembles to a spark of life.

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